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FON in more languages and Spain reaches 10,000 foneros

FON Website in More Languages

As I happened on the site this morning I noticed that the FON website now has language buttons for "EN|ES|FR|DE|IT|NL|SE" and several characters that appear as ??? for me but seem like Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan. Some of these just seem to point at their blog and not specifically translations of the main site, but all the same it's exciting to see FON continue expanding linguistic reach along with physical reach.

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Fon Social Router Arrives and is Installed!

This past Thursday (as in, the 27th of July) I got a delivery of a decent sized box. I wasn't expecting a delivery. I was curious, put the box away, and didn't think about it. On Sunday I found the box again and decided it was probably not a bomb and opened it. To my surprise it was the FON Social Router I had ordered which arrived about 2 weeks before I expected it to arrive. I was pretty excited.

The installation turned out to be simple enough. Plug in the ethernet cable. Plug in the power. Done.

My major problem now is that I want to do port forwarding so that when I'm outside of my home network I can use ssh to connect to my computers inside of the network. I had that working fine with my old router, but can't get it to work with the FON router. I followed the instructions in the FON Faq and available on the FON Discussion board but neither is really helpful.

One interesting thing, in my opinion, is that FON is using the OpenWRT software as the basis for their routers. OpenWRT was recently profiled in a LifeHacker story about running your WiFi router with higher power to get better range. And, indeed, I'm noticing better reception with this model than my previous very similar router.

The box is a WRT54GS that FON purchased, takes apart, changes around, replaces the operating system, and then sends out to people. It appears from df -h:

Filesystem Size Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/root 1.4M 1.4M 0 100% /rom
/dev/mtdblock/4 1.8M 396.0k 1.4M 21% /
none 7.0M 44.0k 7.0M 1% /tmp

that it's got about 8MB of flash memory.

In terms of RAM:

[email protected]:/# cat /proc/meminfo
total: used: free: shared: buffers: cached:

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FON - Crowdsourcing as a business model

The bane of the telecommunications industry is always infrastructure. Well, maybe sometimes it's the regulation board or the PUC, but mostly it's infrastructure. Capital investments in infrastructure are like fingernails on a chalkboard to the telecom CFO. If you want to create a WIFI hotspot network you have to spend money on a ridiculous number of things like:

  1. The actual physical WIFI antennas/routers/etc - and you have to make them reliable
  2. Salespeople to go out and make people install your stuff, which is why major retail space owners (Starbucks? McDonalds?) are likely targets for big deals
  3. Field technicians to go to those retail locations and actually install the stuff
  4. Field technicians to go back out when someone kicks the device and it breaks
  5. Fleet managers to track the truck rolls and do oil changes and...
  6. get the point

What if you could have a wifi network without buying or hiring any of those people? What if you just had a couple engineers who retrofit really cheap WIFI routers with your hardware/software package and then you sell them to people who already have a broadband connection? All of a sudden everybody with a DSL/Cable connection in their house becomes your Salesperson and Field Technician.

FON vs. TMobile

At least for the USA, T-Mobile hotspots go for $10/day. And there is no such thing as being able to use them for free. In contrast, "Aliens" on the FON system currently pay $3/day. Undercutting Tmobile by two thirds. Well, that's not bad.

Crowdsourcing a Telecom Company

This is what Wired was talking about in their recent "Crowdsourcing" article. It's the idea that as communication and search costs lower you can suddenly contract with everyone in the world to be a tiny little service provider in a giant company that has very little infrastructure or employees, but that does millions in transactions a day. eBay has been doing this for a few years now, but we finally have a fun title for the practice.

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